Monday, 10 February 2014

Chapter 33 - The great reformation, part 1


The last year has been a pivotal one in the adoption world. Adoption has suddenly become a political hot topic. But in largely a good way. It has received attention at the highest levels of government and on that basis, changes are afoot. 

It was something of a surprise when Prime Minister, David Cameron announced that reform of the adoption system was a personal political priority for him. Cynics might claim that it was also a nice, fluffy, feel-good initiative to get behind at a time when he and his coalition government seemed to be beset with problems at all sides. One could also speculate on the placement across the government departments most closely linked with fostering and adoption of ministers with personal experience of adoption and fostering. Accident, design, strongly held belief or political expedient, it became clear that a ground up review of the system was planned.

It was always clear from reporting in the papers that the need to deal with looked after children in an effective manner was a growing priority. While some (most?) of this reporting was quite sensationalised it was appearing more regularly. There was the growing number of children in the looked after system. There was the shortage of foster carers and prospective adopters. There was the amount of time it was taking for children who were destined to be adopted to move through the system to a forever family. There were the numbers of children who never made this journey...

It was these last two issues on which the government pronouncements seemed to focus. Implicit blame seemed to rest at the door of social services (who always seemed to me to be in a pretty "dammed if you do, dammed if you don't" position for a lot of the time). The system is, of course, more complex than either column inches or politicians like to admit and other areas such as funding, the family court system, poverty, joblessness, drug and alcohol abuse and so on seemed to be conveniently set aside in the "too difficult" box.

There had been lots of reports in the papers bemoaning the length of time it had taken for some parents to be approved or to be placed with a child. Other couples complained that, despite being the perfect candidates the system had refused to give them a child. The reporting was, as it tends to be, partial and one always wonders what the other side to stories is. Speed of approval was, therefore the order of the day and the proposed changes were announced towards the middle of last year. 

One focus was to squeeze the front end of the process to get prospective adopters to home study and panel quicker. Then there is also a desire to speed up the road to approval and matching panels. I had certainly found the inefficiencies of the system frustrating and there did seem to be unnecessary delays between each step up to the Preparation Days. However, to me, the individual elements in the process appeared to be sound enough. One hopes that effectiveness of scrutiny won't be negatively defected by the increase in speed and throughput.

I'm not from Plymouth but I loved this poster!
The new timeline and processes... First things First
One of the aspects of the new system is the introduction of a greater resource of information and access to advice before the formal part of the approval commences. One of the innovations is the introduction of a new central web-based portal for information and entry into the process "First 4 Adoption". This website provides an initial one-stop shop of basic information about adoption. There is an online quiz and interactive guide for those considering adoption where they can check if they meet the basic criteria for entering the process. There is guidance on background reading and suggested reading materials that prospective adopters can do to help them better understand the process and the demands of being an adoptive parent. There is an adoption information hotline where you can talk to trained advisers and raise concerns and questions - 0300 222 0022.

There is a directory of UK adoption agencies which can help prospective adopters find either an agency which is local to them or contact one of the national agencies.

First 4 Adoption advises those considering adoption to contact a range of potential agencies early into the process to explore their approach to the process and get a feel whether an agency is the right  one for them. "Shop around, feel comfortable with your decision" is a consistent theme.

To further facilitate this early information gathering stage of the process many adoption agencies and local authorities are introducing processes and resources for those interested in adoption. These may range from online resources and printed materials to opportunities to speak in person to agency staff or regular "drop in" sessions. 

Once the prospective adopter has made a decision to proceed they can then move into the more formal process - Stage 1 of the new adoption process...

Useful links and resources:

F4A -Telephone help-line: 0300 222 0022

Next time: Stages 1 & 2 and beyond...

1 comment:

Suddenly Mummy said...

Helpful overview - I haven't really got to grips with the changes yet, so I'm looking forward to the next installment!